I would consider my self a feminist. I have never understood why that would have a negative connotation. I am female, I expect the same human rights as my complimentary sex. I expect equality. To not want that as a human I find remarkable, therefore will never understand how a female would ever not want to describe herself as a feminist. Maybe it is just language – as the amazing Emma Watson pointed out in her phenomenal UN speech introducing her “heforshe” campaign – feminism has undeservedly gained the reputation for being anti man, when actually equality lifts us all. Issues for feminism have changed or evolved over the years , especially in the west where basic rights have been achieved and now what some may consider lesser issues are on the table, but where if it should – the line be drawn? Recently my attention has been gained by the upset in France regarding the Iconic statue of the Kissing Sailor. French feminists are calling for the removal of the statue – on loan to Normandy to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second world war. as it, they believe, represents a sexual assault.http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/europe/article4228714.ece
I say ‘they believe’ as there were no charges brought and the lady in question remarked how she didn’t expect the kiss – however she never described it as a sexual assault. As a feminist who claims that means not ‘men hating’, I have to defend the rights of the sailor – to say innocent before proven guilty, and feel saddened that a victorious event has been tainted by these claims, by people who were never involved. I am a staunch believer that crimes should never be laid to rest. That someone should never be too old for justice, but that is for crimes that were considered crimes then, as they are now. I’m not sure I’m a believer in applying todays morality to the actions of the past. Would it be fitting to label Henry VIII as a pedophile because he married teenagers? The characters in my fictional novel ‘The Kissing Sailor’ make no reference to the true history of the statue. For them it is a backdrop to their love story in Sarasota. They see the statue as a monument to hope and new beginnings as do I. My character Anna could be considered a feminist so it is truly fascinating to me that she is in a book titled with such controversy.
Do I agree with the French feminists? I’m not sure …when the world is still riddled with extreme gender inequality like forced marriage, genital mutilation, honor killings and rape, should this celebratory kiss ever be considered an issue. Can it not be what it claims to be? Especially since both involved never complained about the matter. But maybe these french feminists aren’t really condemning the act itself – or the people involved, maybe it’s the people today they are angry with – the ones that will celebrate an enforced kiss, an invasion of a woman’s space as acceptable today. The ones that think it’s the girls responsibility to prevent her rape on campus. The ones who believe a woman is for sale, the ones who won’t vote for #nomorepage3. The ones who won’t vote for equal pay for equal work, the ones who won’t vote for a woman to make her own health choices. These same ones that think that equality has been achieved and that the fight is for those in less fortunate areas.
Yes, the issues of gender inequality in developing countries by no doubt pails the gripe of the French feminists to insignificance but until we clean up our own back yard we can never hope to sow the seed in others gardens. When all men today can celebrate ‘no means no’, then maybe women can celebrate a harmless kiss of yesteryear.